Once again the CEO of the St. Charles Parish Hospital played his version of the GAME known as, “And Now You Know The Rest of the Story.” In his version of the GAME, we, the citizens of St. Charles Parish never get the rest of the story.
The main difference in the game which was played at the Parish Council meeting on June 16, was that the CEO had the parish president, seven members of the Parish Council, and two members of the St. Charles Parish Hospital Board play along. The hospital CEO, the parish president, seven members of the Parish Council, and two members of the St. Charles Parish Hospital Board worked very hard to convince all who were listening that the hospital was in jeopardy of closing if the Parish Council did not approve their request to borrow an additional $10 million.
The parish president stated that the Parish Council and his administration, should the council not approve the $10 million loan request, would be known as the ones who were responsible for closing the hospital. As I recall the facts, the voters of St. Charles Parish recently, even though there was only an 18 percent voter turnout, gave their permission to the hospital district to continue to collect 2.4 mills of property tax for the operations and maintenance of the hospital.
This 2.4 mills, which will generate nearly $2.5 million annually for the hospital, is a renewal of an existing bond, and would extend the collection of the millage for an additional 10 years. The money generated by that millage will continue to exist whether or not the $10 million loan was approved.
The property tax rolls presently may not be able to support both the maintenance and operations fund for the hospital, and the repayment of the $10 million loan, along with its interest. The St. Charles Parish Hospital District is incurring future debt solely on a projection that more properties will be coming onto the tax rolls in the near future. I can only guess that they are praying that none leave the rolls.
If the projected increased tax revenue does not materialize, the operations and maintenance of the hospital will suffer because the loan will still need to be repaid. One has to assume that this model of conducting business is the reason why the St. Charles Parish Hospital District is always chasing its financial tail. It may also be the reason why the CEO, with the Hospital Board’s approval, as they admitted, has more than once inappropriately removed funds from a dedicated fund and spent it elsewhere.
In the business world, if money managers had taken such liberties with dedicated funds, far harsher words than “inappropriate” would have been used to describe the actions taken by the hospital CEO and Hospital Board members.
The citizens, with their vote, agreed to put themselves in debt for 2.4 mills, which will be nearly $2.5 million annually, over the next 10 years. The Parish Council, after a two hour discussion, nearly doubled the debt that will need to be paid by the taxpayers.
What was the rush? Most of the members of the council agreed that they had little time to review the issue at hand. Why were there so many comments of doom and gloom if the loan request was not approved? The fact that the collection of the 2.4 mills will occur and the maintenance and operations of the hospital is assured did not justify such a hasty vote.
Could it be that the loan was needed immediately to assure that a source of funds would be available to replace those inappropriately spent? Could the rush to approve the loan be because these funds will now be available, and once returned to the dedicated fund, allow the CEO and the members of the Hospital Board to save themselves from possible criminal or civil charges?
The management and operations of our hospital from a financial standpoint must change.
As I have stated both privately and publicly, when visiting St. Charles Parish Hospital you will find just what you would expect to find at a hospital, a clean environment and a courteous staff, who on a daily basis exhibit their commitment to providing quality health care to all.
To allow the status quo of this business and financial model to continue cannot be allowed if we desire to continue having a St. Charles Parish owned hospital.Gail N. AllemandMilton J. Allemand, Jr.Hahnville